Alden Boon

Lisa Teng: How Caring for the Elderly Allows Her to Answer Her Calling as a Christian


Lisa Teng is lying on a bed fitted with white cotton-polyester bedsheet. Only laboured staccato breaths she draws, her life whittling away as a dandelion bracing the onset of a gale. Pools of blood — hers — stain the floor with a crimson. An army of nurses fusses about her, prodding and jabbing her with needles. The blood pressure machine beeps hauntingly as her blood level plunges to dangerous lows.

But even as her life teetered precariously and hanged by the last frayed end of a thread, even in this panicked cacophony, Lisa felt an inexplicable stillness; an inner peace. “There was a cross hung on the wall facing my bed in the ICU. I uttered to God: ‘I give up. Do what you want with me.’ And that’s when I felt His strength take over. I knew that I had God on my side, and so in this battle against death victory was mine.”

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When I was ill and in despair, Matthew 9:20-22 was the passage that, in a wall of text, leapt from the page. God spoke to me, and comforted me.

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.

She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’

Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.’

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Lisa was not a born Christian; her family believes in Buddhism. It was not until her brush with death in 2012 that she discovered God.  A cyst in her womb caused insistent bleeding. Against her doctor’s advice she chose not to remove her womb even though she had passed her child-bearing age, for she was not ready, and also she was uninsured, fearing that any surgery would ring up expensive medical bills. Yet the condition was affecting her everyday life, stripping her of the ability to run her thriving fashion business. Bereft of vitality, she required herculean efforts even when climbing up flights of stairs.

Like tumbling dominoes, her anemia engendered a deficiency in minerals, which in turn caused her to develop a disorder called Pica: an irrational appetite for non-nutritive substances such as chalk, paper and even paint. In Lisa’s case, soap. “I just loved the smell of it. I’d go to hotels to collect them. I switched all of my shower gel and laundry detergent to soap — any excuse I had to get close to it.” At the height of her addiction, the fragrant blocks were esculent to her, and she wanted to eat them.

Fed up with two gynaecologists who were unable to find a panacea for her, she sought a third opinion, but not before praying to God for some help. And God answered her prayer, directing her to her third doctor, also a believer of Christ, who informed her that she had been misdiagnosed: There were in fact three cysts, the other two so embedded they were not immediately visible.

Read how Buddhism has helped Dr Siew Tuck Wah, President of Saving Our Street Dogs, to find his purpose in life. 

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When I was a nascent Christian, I questioned God: ‘Why didn’t You heal me?’ In retrospect, I was chasing after miraculous healing, instead of chasing after the Healer.

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Letting go of emotional entanglements

Lisa’s eventual recovery was nothing short of miraculous, and even her doctor marvelled at the swift return of her vigour. Her transcendent relationship with God was not only light in her darkest, most desperate hour, but it also helped to assuage a deep-seated guilt. One of losing her mother.

In her twilight years, Lisa’s late mother had debilitating health, and she suffered a host of illnesses, from diabetes to high blood pressure. She was also wizened by cancer and multiple strokes. Her behaviour took a radical turn: at relatives and the family’s helper she often spewed accusations of theft.

While staying with Lisa’s brother in Malaysia, her mother took a fall, which went unreported by the helper who feared repercussions. She developed a swelling in the brain, and her behaviour became even more eccentric, which Lisa and her brothers chalked it up to the symptoms of her other illnesses. It was only when she started conversing in Malay that they knew was something not right — she was not fluent in Malay! [Editor’s note: This is likely caused by aphasia, an impairment of language following a stroke or head trauma.] Her mother was rushed to the hospital; she never walked through that door.

Many nights Lisa dreamt of her late mother, and many rivers of tears she would cry. The heft of losing her mother, coupled with regret and self-blame that she had failed as a daughter, haunted Lisa. “I hated myself for not paying more attention to my mother when she needed me the most. I could not forgive myself, and this burden ate at me and drove me crazy.”

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By then I was already saved by God, but my mother died as a non-believer. I was so lost. I said to God: ‘How could you take my mother away? Why couldn’t you wait? Is she in hell? I will not get to see my mother in the afterlife!’

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.